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Signs Of Life

Columns by Pamela Majteles

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Bird Watching

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Posted by pam on January 14, 2011 at 10:50 pm

Originally published March 5, 2010

Reprinted with permission from Bay Area News Group – East Bay

Far out in the middle of Lake Merritt, I spot a Canvasback duck gliding through the water. A little closer to shore, I see a Lesser Scaup duck, an American Coot, and a Canada Goose. Even closer, on the walking path in front of me, I see a Big Straw Hat woman, a Cal Sweatshirt man and a Double Stroller mother.

Whenever I walk around Lake Merritt, I find myself cataloguing the variety of bird and human species that make up the rich habitat.

“Oh look,” I say to myself. “There’s a Peet’s Coffee Cup man holding hands with a Noah’s Bagels woman.”

It’s common to witness signs of love at the lake. I also see a Silver Hair Senior man shuffling arm in arm with a Silver Hair Senior woman. Out on the water, I spot a Mallard male duck with its showy green head and a Mallard female duck with its drab brown head swimming together on their own. (They say that Mallards mate for life.)

But at the lake, they don’t only come in twos. I watch as five Seriously Toned Young men run by laughing and jawing, followed by four Fancy Athletic Clothes women deep in conversation. And on the lake, a large group of Double Crested Cormorants and Herring Gulls are having a confab of their own, lined up on the log booms that float in the water.

Not everyone who comes to the lake is looking for company. Some are engaged in solitary pursuit. I notice a Huffing Puffing woman running by herself, passing a Tuned Out man wearing earphones attached to a MP3 player. On the shore, I see a lone Western Gull wrestling a clam shell to get at what’s inside. (The way he’s guarding the clam tells me he wants it all to himself.)

But those who appear to be having the most fun aren’t alone. I pass a Preening Proud father with a Teeny Tiny baby nestled in a chest pack. I go by a Pampering Proud woman holding the leash of an Itsy Bitsy dog wearing a hot pink coat. Overhead I hear the honking of Canada Geese as they fly together in formation, looking like a glider swooping through the sky.

For the most part, the bird and human species don’t mix. Perhaps it’s one of those unspoken social rules — everyone should stick with their own kind. But this is Oakland, so it doesn’t surprise me to find someone who challenges the social rules.

Near the Rotary Nature Center at the lake, I notice a Yellow Cardigan woman standing in front of a fence that protects birds that reside behind it. She seems to be conversing with the birds using a blend of human and bird sounds.

As I study her more closely, I’m struck by her long neck that arches like that of a Canada Goose and her nose that has a bit of a hooked tip like a Double Crested Cormorant. It occurs to me that I really need to revise the way I catalogued her. I’d say she’s more of a Yellow Double Crested Goose. Just another of the species you find at Lake Merritt.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License.

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